On Kitty Cats, Lizards and Facing Temptation…

Thankfully, I didn’t step on it.
But it was a near miss.
I saw a glint of metallic blue in my all-tan sandal and paused, my foot hovering.

And sure enough, when I picked up my sandal to investigate, out fell the lizard carcass.

Sigh.

It is a never-ending battle in the summer at my house that goes something like this:

Lizards: It’s hot out. That little crack looks like it leads to shade.
(Enter the house.)
Oh, so cool in here…yay!

Lucy and Liza (AKA, The Cats): (awakening from a dead sleep)
Sniff! Sniff! New toy!!!!
(And they take off for whichever door the lizard entered)

Thus proceeds the game. At least, that is how the cats see it. A fun game of trap-the-lizard-then-let-him-go, trap him again, and let him go – until the lizard finally succumbs to all this “fun”, curls up and dies.

If I am home, I do my best to intervene. I am not fond of the creatures but they do eat bugs – and no one should die the death they are facing.

So I jump into action, armed with a small glass bowl and a lot of yelling at the cats.
I try to catch the silly things under the bowl without harming them and then carefully slide a book or a folder underneath so I can take them back outside. I succeed about 75% of the time. But not one of them has said thank you!

OK, no. I don’t expect the lizards to say “thanks”.

But I do wish they would post some sort of reptilian warning outside my doors, telling others that this is NOT a safe place to find shade.

And this morning, as I rejoiced at the fact that I did not add insult to injury by squishing the dead lizard with my bare foot, I was reminded that I am much like my reptilian buddies.

Life gets “hot”.
Pressures rise.
Troubles increase.
And I look for escape.

I see a shadowy corner over there that looks promising. A way to escape?
And I run toward it, not recognizing the danger that lurks within.

For me, that escape might mean reading a book I know is not going to lead my thoughts where they need to go.
Or watching a “mindless” TV show that I know makes the Lord cringe.

Sometimes it is “sharing” with a friend – which is another name for complaining or gossiping or simply being very ungrateful.

At times it is comforting my emotions with a bowl of something sweet and creamy.

Running from the heat, straight into the jaws of my enemy.

For others, that shadowy corner that beckons looks very different.
Perhaps it involves a substance. A bottle of wine. A small pill. A six-pack.
Or maybe it is shopping. Finding that perfect “something” that will address the hole in the heart and the pain that lingers.
For some it is a codependent relationship. Or mindless sex. Or pornography.
The list is long and very varied.

We all have them.
The default temptations that come our way when we are under stress.
And they all – ALL – lead to death.
The “not-so-bad” ones that our culture accepts.
And the “really-bad” ones that are still frowned upon.
We look for escape from pain – and we run towards the shadows where the enemy of our souls lurks, waiting to pounce.
Because, for him, it is a game.
He could care less how he throws you off track.
“Harmless” TV or a deadly affair.
A “mindless” book or racking up debt far greater than you can bear.
It doesn’t matter.

Because you are not the One he ultimately wants to hurt.
You are simply a pawn in the game.
His primary objective is to hurt the One who loves you best.
And he knows that hurting you will hurt the One who made you. Who loves you. Who died for you.

I wish the lizards had enough sense to not come in.
And then, when they do come in, I wish they would simply go back out the way they came.
Retrace their steps, finding freedom easily as they slip back through that crack.
But they don’t.
Instead, they panic. They race. And eventually they die.

I wish I had enough sense to always avoid those shadowy places.
To “flee temptation” as Paul advised Timothy. (I Timothy 6:11)
But when I don’t, when I slip towards that dark, shadowy, cool-looking crack, I have a guarantee that my lizard friends don’t have.
A promise in Scripture from God Himself that Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
God WILL provide a way out.
Every time.
The key is to not panic.
But to instead cry out to the Lover of my soul, the King of my heart, my Creator, my Abba.
Choosing to remember that He is God.
And I am not.
Choosing to believe that He is good.
Even when it doesn’t feel like it.
Choosing to believe He can make ALL the difference.
Even when my heart cries out for that which I know is wrong.

“Show me the way out, Abba, please!”
And He does.
Because He said He will.
Every time.
When I listen and choose to remember, choose to obey.

One last thought:

There is a sure-fire way to avoid heading into those shadowy places altogether, even when the pressure feels like more than can be born.
David wrote about it in Psalm 119:143. I love how it is translated in the New Living Translation:
“As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.”
David knew that pressure would come.
It is not “IF” they bear down on me.
It is “AS” they happen.
But he also knew how to deal with the pressures and stress.
He CHOSE to “find joy in (God’s) commands.”
Well, most of the time he did.
And when he did not, he blew it big.
Thank God for forgiveness!

Other translations say, “Your commands are my delight” (Holman Christian Standard)
In other words, when David felt the heat growing, he turned to the Word of God.
Not just to read it.
But to revel in it.
Delighting in God’s directives.
Because he knew they were the only path to safety.
The Living Word
Who is also known as Living Water.
So instead of buckling under the heat and running toward shadowy places of “comfort”, he found joy in the Word of God.
Resting in the Truth.
Relishing God’s commands.
Knowing that they are the way of life.
Even when the cool shadows seem to promise much better.
The fact is those temptations lead directly to the enemy of our souls, who Peter called a “roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour”. (I Peter 5:8)

I am certain that there are more lizard carcasses in my future.
But I am also hopeful that I will be able to save some of them from being played to death by my kitties.

I am certain that there are more temptations in my future – and in yours.
But I am more than hopeful – I am confident – that the Lord will save us both every time if we will simply cry out to Him for help. And then do what He says.

He’s promised.
And He never lies.

Advertisements

On Stooping…

The man on the right is our friend Sam.
He was one of the translators on our recent trip to Guatemala.
Originally from Bolivia, he is 6’2”, a natural athlete and very strong.
He towers over most Guatemalans.
And especially Pablo.

Pablo, on the left, is small for his 17-years.
He is completely non-verbal and has many special needs.
He is defenseless in a harsh, cruel world.
But for the grace of God and the love of his Mama, he would now be dead.

As you can see, Pablo had a need.
His shoe was untied.
He didn’t recognize the need – that kind of thing is beyond him.
But Sam saw the need.
He coaxed Pablo toward him.
And then knelt to do what needed to be done.

This picture brings tears to my eyes.
Sam has the physical strength to be a brute.
But he is gentle with the hurting, those in need, the most vulnerable.
He has the height to be intimidating, especially to the children.
But they cling to him like a tree-trunk they are desperate to climb because they intuitively know that he won’t hurt them.
He has all the abilities he needs to walk through this life without seeing those in need.
But he notices.
In this case, he noticed the untied shoe.
The danger it could be.
And the fact that Pablo could not solve the problem on his own.

Do you see the parallels?
You and I, we are just like Pablo.
Broken.
Unable.
And mostly clueless of our own need.
We are in danger most of the time and don’t even know it.
Sam is like Jesus.
Full of strength.
Full of ability.
Full of power.

And yet he stoops.
Just as Jesus stooped down from heaven’s throne to become a baby in the manger.
To meet the woman at the well where she was.
Just as He stooped down in the dirt to make mud to heal the blind man’s eyes.
And to touch the leper.
To lift the hand of the once-dead girl.
And welcome the children to His open arms.

He has all the power of the universe at His disposal and deserves every bit of praise.
He is the Creator of all things and the glue that holds all of them together. (Colossians 1)
But He laid all of that aside, stooping low, for much more than an un-tied shoe.

Paul spoke about Jesus this way in his letter to the Philippians, chapter 2:
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Jesus stooped low in order to be lifted high on a cross.

And because He did, Sam has been given the same heart.
A heart that is fully capable of being a warrior, strong and fierce, in the face of evil.
But a heart that is humble enough to stoop in the dirt to tie a young man’s shoe.
Not because he is so wonderful.
But because His Savior is.
He has many wonderful qualities.
But it is the Lord in him that you see in this picture.

And the question is this:
If you are a Christ-follower, are you willing to stoop?
Are you willing to lay down your pride, bending low for the sake of another?
Are you willing to open your heart to love the unlovely?
The broken?
The hurting?

What about those who are in sin?
Those who defy God?
Those who are rebels at heart?
Will you stoop to love them, too?
Because that is what Jesus did.
“While we were yet sinners, Christ died.” (Romans 5:6)
While I was still in rebellion, He held out His arms for me to come into them.
While I was still far off, He ran to meet me.
Long before I was born, He stooped down low to make a way for me to be lifted into His arms.

There is no such thing as too-broken before the Lord.
No sin too great to be forgiven.
No hurt too big to be healed.
No rebel so far gone that they cannot be redeemed.

Christ stooped for you.
Will you kneel in the dirt for Him?

Imagine what a world it would be if everyone who claimed His name knelt in humility to serve another.
Regardless of who they are.
Or how they are broken.
What if the world truly saw us loving others – outsiders – as Jesus did?
And what if they saw us doing the even harder job – loving each other as Jesus did?

What a world that would be!

Will you stoop?